It’s easy to suggest that the proximate cause of the come-from-ahead stunner home loss to Tennessee Sunday was 10 penalties. But the solution for the Seahawks, NFL leader in crimes of taunting, is as easy as turning the other cheek — literally. The new rules call for turning away from the opponent before commencing gyrations and histrionics. Silly, yes, but the ask is not as difficult, say, as solving the Middle East.
To beat the Vikings (0-2) in Minneapolis Sunday, the Seahawks’ reduction in knucklehead fouls is far secondary to getting quality offensive production from DK Metcalf, tight ends and running backs. Otherwise, the outcome falls upon the slim shoulders of WR Tyler Lockett. Again.
The game figures to be a shootout because both defenses have shown little so far in the small-sample-size portion of the season — the Vikings are 28th in yards surrendered (420 ypg) and the Seahawks 30th (434). In both games, Seattle led at halftime, then the offense crawled to a near halt in the second halves.
Pete Carroll knows the goal; how he gets there is the mystery.
“I would like us to be able to run the ball better in the fourth quarter,” he said. “I wish that was happening when we get ahead. It would be nice . . .That’s always been the way we liked to finish games. That’s why balance is so important.
“You guys always want to know why we talk about the running game. Well, there’s a reason why. It’s really nice when you can pound the clock down and finish. It just hasn’t happened as well as we’d like.”
The failure to sustain drives Sunday allowed the Titans to possess the ball for 42 minutes, which is a poor way for a defense to stay fresh against human logging truck Derrick Henry.
The answer thus far has been Russell Wilson to Tyler Lockett. What it lacks in protein, it nearly makes up for in sugar highs.
Lockett’s 178 yards receiving Sunday was the fifth-most in club single-game history, and second-most in his career, behind the 200 (in 15 catches) last year against Arizona. Lockett is second in NFL receiving yards (four behind Deebo Samuel of San Francisco), first in average (23.2 ypc) and second in TDs (three). Since 2018, his 31 receiving touchdowns are tied for fourth in the NFL.
It turns out the Wilson/Lockett combo scored so quickly that it gave the Titans what they wanted — time for their ground game to wear down the Seattle defense.
“We got sidetracked and we lost it,” Lockett said Wednesday. “I think it was a good way for us to learn. Luckily, it was only in the second game of the season, (not) something that could have been detrimental.”
Well, it was detrimental, just wasn’t against the Rams or 49ers. But Lockett understands the dilemma.
“I think sometimes we can get so caught up in explosive plays,” he said. “We had so many of them, that once you start seeing explosive plays happen, you want to keep doing it. Eventually (the Titans) ended up taking away those explosive plays and wanted us to play short.
“That’s something that we love, and want to do. But when we started doing it, we got sidetracked by all of the penalties.”
The flags for taunting have been this year’s contribution to the NFL’s September tradition — bellyaching about rules/officiating changes.
“I just think it’s hard, because as professional athletes, this is what we do,” Lockett said. “People talk to get in your head. You don’t let people get in your head. If they do, you better know how to play, because they will be coming for you every single time.
“It’s almost like we have to play football quietly. You can’t talk unless it’s to your teammates, and that’s just not realistic. That’s just never how the game has been. It would be different if we would have started football like that, with no taunting. To let it ride for however long the NFL has been, now to start putting these types of rules in, it takes away the emotions. It’s hard.”
Still, them’s the rules. The failure to understand is the responsibility of the players. The Seahawk with the most trouble understanding is Metcalf, the impulsive third-year receiver who has been flagged three times and confined to 10 catches and 113 yards, with one touchdown. A notorious in-game trash-talker, he’s vulnerable to being duped into distraction.
“He’s finding out the boundaries to play within,” Carroll said. “He’s so physical that he finds himself in situations where he’s overwhelming a guy at times. He needs to know how the officials are calling it, and when to throw his hands up. I’m OK with what he’s trying to do, but we have to do it within the guidelines.
“That messaging is important for our whole club after last week. We had things happen that didn’t need to happen, after the play was finished. We gave away a ton of yards. He was a part of that.”
While Metcalf gets drawn into head games, Lockett is suddenly in the spotlight with his spectacular catches and accumulating numbers under new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, although Lockett disdains the attention.
“I feel like the only thing that’s different is everybody’s trying to start talking about me,” he said. “I just want to kind of like chill and not being in front of the camera. And I just want to kind of, you know, do me.
“Records are something for y’all. I never really play for records. People talk about records and makes you start wanting to play for records. You start realizing you’re doing a lot of stuff that you never cared about.
“I just want to be able to play football, be the best that I could be.”
Until Metcalf joins him in the notion, one of the smallest Seahawks gets to pull the largest load.